First of all, I would like to make a point about the fact that every woman experiences pregnancy and birth in her own special way. I am just going to share with you my own feelings and thoughts based on life and on some amazing books that inspired me.
READ HERE PART 1 of baby Diane's arrival if you haven't yet!
1. The first days at home as a new family
The arrival at home with Diane was actually fabulous and normal all at the same time. It felt normal to have her with us. I think there is a reason why pregnancy takes 9 months! It does give you time to realize things and get prepared to them, emotionally, mentally and physically.
During the first 2 weeks, I didn’t feel like talking to many people. I didn’t feel like doing any social effort, and I am so glad I respected that feeling!! It gave me time to really bond with the baby, to set up my new routine, to get to know her, and to help my body recover. I was in this little bubble and that’s exactly what I needed. I didn’t have to bother about the mess at home or the way I was dressed… It was just us: my husband, our baby girl and me. Some days I felt better than others, but every day this was all getting more real and it actually seemed easy compared to what people had been telling me all the time.
Yes, I am grateful and I feel very lucky that I have a husband that made this experience so beautiful. I mean, who would cook your placenta the way he did…?! And then, he was taking care of the both of us, making sure we had everything we need at home, and helping me out with understanding the baby, getting her to sleep and just getting to know her better every day. I couldn’t have done it without him. He really respected my need for space regarding the “external world” despite the fact that he actually wanted his whole family to come over :-) . The love, support and space he gave me made this special time a wonderful part of our life.
2. Getting close and bonding
We made what made us feel comfortable and what seemed natural and easy to us: lots of skin-to-skin contact, and co-sleeping or bed-sharing. The first 3 months are extremely important, they are the 4th trimester of pregnancy. The newborn needs closure to feel secured and loved. It is easy to see how important it is for her to be held and close to her mother or father as much as possible. Whenever you leave those newborns alone, they have no idea that you are going to come back. So yes, they cry. Because to them, it is a life threatening situation. So yes, baby Diane was most of the time held by me or her father. She was always close to or held by someone.
We did help her cry whenever she expressed the need. Babies do have a lot of stress, and they do need to let it all out. But we didn’t let her cry alone: we were holding her tight, not moving, looking at her in the eyes, telling her we love her and that we are here listening to whatever she has to say. And sometimes she would cry even more! (which is a good sign, showing she is feeling good and comfortable with us and free to express whatever she wants…) But never for very long, and as a result, she has never been really stressed or restless. Of course, we wouldn’t let her cry if we knew it was for food, spoiled diapers or any type of pain…! Only when we knew it was her own stress and that she needed to get it out. Honestly, this is not always easy to do, but we could see how much she needed those “crisis times” and how she would sleep much better, and just be much calmer and happier, after having let go.
2 books helped me a lot feeling calm and relax, giving me some great insight to understand why babies cry, why they need to cry, and what you can do about it.... I already mentioned them but here they are: Tears and Tantrums, What to do when babies and children cry by Aletha J. Solter AND"Kiss me: how to raise your children with love" by Carlos Gonzales from La Leche League. Check them out, their website has loads of information, from breastfeeding, to sleeping, to eating....
3. Co-sleeping or bed-sharing
Honestly, this is just what my instincts told me to do. Even at the hospital, I kept her close to me in the bed all the time. These are a few questions that often come-up when you talk about co-sleeping:
- Isn’t it dangerous for the baby?
As everything, you have to be aware of the risks and minimize them all. No big heavy covers or duvets on top of the baby, as few pillows as possible around her, and there is a specific “security” position that the mother can take to be sure that she won’t roll over the baby unconsciously… But this is what I have felt: as a new mom, who is regularly breastfeeding, even at night, I was and still am in tune with my baby. I am not drinking or smoking or taking any drugs whatsoever. The chances for me to roll over her without even realizing it are….quite small. And there is the “new mom-breastfeeding instinct”. I don’t have that deep sleep that I used to have before. I don’t know how to explain, but all the time, there is always this part of me that is awake thinking of the baby, making sure she is not crying, that she is sleeping well and that she doesn’t need anything.
Now, I can understand how some people can be scared just thinking about it. But honestly, this is actually what we are programmed to do. Newborn babies were used to stick to their mother while the father and the rest of the tribe would make sure they get all they need, in terms of comfort and security. At the same time, this is a precious necessary time for the baby AND for the mother. It really helps both transition between the pregnancy and the after birth time. Anyway, if you choose cosleeping, just make your research and read the basics to know before you get started :-) The book that explains it all very well is the Mama Natural week-by-week pregnancy and childbirth book.
- And what about the other caregiver sharing bed with mom?
Well, there are many possibilities of how to co-sleep and make sure all the family is happy! You can add an extra bed and stick it to yours, and have the other person sleep there so that you and your baby are together on a same mattress. There are also some special co-sleeping or bedside cots and cribs… Make your research and choose what works best for you. What was working best for me, is having my baby against me all night long, on my side. Was it practical? No, not always. But we all slept very good like this.
4. The advantages of cosleeping
To me, the main advantage is about... the nights feedings. She wakes up, sometimes she is just playing by herself, feeling good because she knows we are there with her. And when she wants to eat, well, she knows how to get her milk. I barely wake up, she gets her feed, and falls asleep easily afterwards. So YES, NIGHTS ARE QUITE EASY. I don’t have to wake up completely, prepare a milk bottle, and calm her because she basically never cries at night, ever. So yes, as a result, we sleep relatively well, and much better than I thought regarding what I have been told about those babies nights! Cosleeping is definitely a great solution for that, especially if you are breastfeeding. I have to admit that sometimes, I can’t fall back asleep after a feed… which is super annoying. But most of the times I do, so that is not a big deal, and it just forces me to get to bed earlier than I would otherwise. Co-sleeping has actually helped me recover better: I have been sleeping more, taking it more easy. The first few weeks, I was basically following the rhythm and schedule of the baby, and it helped me relax and sleep and therefore heal and recover better from the delivery.
5. Trust your guts
I truly believe that a mother knows better than anyone else what she has to do regarding her baby. She knows and understands her baby much better than anyone else. Yes of course, there are many moments where we doubt ourselves, and that’s when the presence and support of the father or any other close person is precious. But in general, I know we, mothers, have the guts to know what feels best for the baby and us. So yes, sometimes it means not doing what anyone else would tell you to do. How many people told me that I should leave the baby alone, that she would learn, etc etc... Again, newborns don't learn like that. They just swallow it up and understand that their crying is useless. Anyway, I did what my primal instincts told me to do, and that's also why I have felt great during this very special transitional time.
And yes, sometimes I did feel I was maybe “giving” too much of my time…and life! Especially when I got a bit more tired and because she couldn’t sleep without me by her side (this is getting better now that she is growing up…). My life was basically….hers. But you know what? This is exactly what I needed at that time to rest, bond with her, recover, get used to this new life. So when I look back at it, I just think that life is perfect the way it is. By following my instincts, I am sure I helped myself and the baby feel great during this crucial and sensitive period.
6. Don’t forget about you
Now, I must say something: YES I have been spending most of my time with my little baby, which is beautiful but can be overwhelming all at the same time. It is highly important, as a new mom, to stay in touch with yourself. I said it from the beginning and this helped me so much go through those first 5 months with no depression: I need my 30-40min of gym time in the morning, and if possible a walk by myself in the afternoon. If I can have that most of the days, I know I will be more balanced and I will feel better. Also, I needed to have extremely good food at home….And that’s where, again, the presence and support of my husband have been so precious. He would take her out in the morning for a walk giving me time to work out (and sometimes even have a shower..:-)) ). This has been extremely important to me and kept me from getting insane!! Because yes, some days you just feel more overwhelmed and you just wish you had at least a few hours just BY YOURSELF. Now, this almost never happens to me.. and I must admit that I do miss and need it sometimes..! Yes, the love I feel for my baby helps me do it all for her, but it is also the love for myself, and the fact that I know that this “baby-time” won’t last forever. I appreciate every single morning with her and when she wakes up at night, I am just happy to be able to be there for her, that’s it. Eating good foods, and staying active, has helped me in so many ways, physically and emotionally, especially while breastfeeding. It made me feel better, more energized, and overall more balanced. I am sure that I haven't had the postpartum depression thanks to my food, and more generally my healthy lifestyle and habits.
So as usual, it is all about the same thing: BALANCE. There is a time for rest, for movement, for good food, for happiness. Make sure you tick all the boxes before you go to sleep. Some days are harder and you might feel a bit down. Appreciate them and learn from it. I have enjoyed this journey much more than I thought I ever would. This baby girl has been teaching me a lot about myself and my own struggles. One day I will let her know all of that and will explain to her that no matter what, it is unconditional love that make the people happy and that fulfils their life.
In Love and Happiness,